Denver Broncos fans should put those great expectations about the team's new offense on hold. Offensive coordinator Jim Fassel says it won't happen overnight.
Fassel, the former University of Utah coach who has been overseeing implementation of a ball-control passing attack, is an ardent believer in the new system. But he's a realist, too, and knows it takes time."This is the 49er-style offense that Bill Walsh developed, but good grief, it was three or four years before he got his group clicking on all cylinders," Fassel said Thursday. "The first couple of years, they weren't real pretty on offense."
Fassel will be surprised if the Broncos are ugly when they unveil the offense Saturday night in their opening preseason game at Tampa Bay.
"Without a doubt, I want to move the ball and score points," he said. "What I'm looking for is proper execution and timing."
Still, the new offense remains in the formative stages in terms of the players' assimilation of it.
"Our quarterbacks are all bright, and they've picked it up quickly," Fassel said. "If I gave them all a written test on the offense, I'd be shocked if they didn't get close to 100 percent. But there's a difference between knowing it and reacting on the field. What happens, for instance, when the defense gives you a completely different look from what you're used to seeing on a particular play?
"Also, from a play-calling standpoint, they have to know how I think and why I called a certain play, so they're on the same page with me. That takes time, and it takes game experience."
Fassel doesn't like the label "West Coast offense" that has been given to the system.
"This is the Denver Broncos offense; it's not the West Coast offense," he insists.
He cautioned fans not to get too caught up in the new system.
"There are no trick plays in this game; there are no plays that nobody else runs which people can't defend," Fassel said. "If anybody has some of those plays, please send them to me. All plays can be defended if the defense makes the right call or if the offense doesn't execute.
"It's not that this is an offense that nobody can defend. It's an offense that, if we can execute right, we feel pretty good about the possibilities."
Head coach Wade Phillips agrees with Fassel that patience may be needed.
"It's awfully early," Phillips said. "It takes a while for an offense to come around, and it doesn't matter if you're in a new system or not. It's just hard to score a lot of points and move the ball early in the preseason. People make mistakes. You see a lot of 13-7 and 6-0 games. Offense just doesn't do real well early. I don't care who you are."